English continues to gain importance in Morocco to the detriment of other languages such as French and Spanish. At the end of May, Aziz Akhannouch's government presented an educational initiative that aims to introduce English to 100% of students in the first, second and third years of secondary school by 2025-2026. One year later, in 2027, English is expected to be the main language in many subjects, just as French is today.
The move, Mohammed Zerouali, director of programmes at the Ministry of Education, told AFP, aims to provide "equal opportunities" between public and public schools, where English is already taught in primary school. By making English widely available, Morocco also hopes to provide new opportunities for young people, boosting cultural exchange, technological development and global connectivity.
The Ministry of Education plans to implement this project in a "progressive and balanced manner". Thus, from the 2023-2024 school year, English will be introduced with a coverage rate of 10% for the first year of secondary school and 50% for the second year. During the 2024-2025 cycle, the implementation of English will reach 50% in the first year and 100% in the second year, to be fully generalised during the following year.
According to Le Matin, to achieve the desired success of this initiative, teacher training will be provided and a central steering and monitoring committee chaired by the secretary general of the Ministry of Education and composed of regional commissions under the direct supervision of the directors of the Regional Academies of Education and Training (AREF) will be set up. Technology will also play a key role in this project, as the creation of digital platforms to facilitate the teaching of English is being considered.
This project follows in the footsteps of other initiatives aimed at boosting the English language in the country. In 2022, for example, plans were announced to increase the number of English teachers during the 2022-2023 academic year.
To promote the use of English, Morocco has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the UK to strengthen English language learning in the country's universities. This agreement will also allow Moroccan higher education institutions to partner with UK institutions. In this regard, Coventry University opened its inaugural campus near Casablanca last month, making it the first UK university campus in the whole of Morocco.
For young Moroccans, English is a language of opportunity
All these developments respond to the new needs of young Moroccans, who see English as "vital" for educational, professional and cultural opportunities, according to a 2022 report by the British Council.
The report also highlights that 40% of young people in Morocco consider English to be the most important language, compared to 10% who consider French, the traditional language of the Kingdom's elites, to be the most important.
Against this backdrop, English is expected to replace French as the first foreign language. As Houssine Soussi, professor and researcher at the Ibn Zohr University in Dakhla, predicts to Medias24, English may become the first language in ten to fifteen years. On this point, Soussi highlights the use of English among the younger generations, especially in social networks and sport.
To understand the popularity that English is gaining in Morocco, it is necessary to take into account the colonial past. For many citizens, English is "a neutral language, without a colonial past, unlike French, which can even be rejected by the protectorate", explains Soussi.
Finally, the professor stresses that many young Moroccans are more interested in English than French because many hope to move to countries such as Qatar, the United Arab Emirates or the United States. Therefore, French will not be as useful to them as English, which will offer them more opportunities.